On the wrong side of 50, Mathew Perry was not an eminent statesman nor a renowned sports person or a thespian. But the followers of the television sitcom Friends will mourn his recent death as he reminded them of the make-believe closeness in a back to the wall scenario where people often hope against hope.
Perry essaying the role of Chandler Bing had enthralled countless stress-ridden viewers in company with five of his friends. Meanwhile, he continued to fight his demons, drug addiction which ravaged his body and mind and at the same time letting him realise the frailty of human existence.
He starred in 10 seasons of the iconic Friends which made him a household name and one of the most recognisable faces of Hollywood. As a part of a friends group in New York, Chandler played the quick-witted, insecure and neurotic roommate of Joey and Ross, played by Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer respectively.
It was quite characteristic of Perry to chime in during the show “Could this be anymore awkward?”. Joey’s “How yadoin?” and Chandler’s “It’s always better to lie than to have a complicated discussion” have broken into the language of young audience of Friends.
At an age, where every individual tends to be an island, the sitcom Friends sent across a loud and clear message of bonding. Of course, it had its share of squabbles, heart breaks and reunions in which Perry nay Chandler played a key part helping friends who tended to drift away stay connected.
Chandler was no Oscar Wilde but his dialogues were often quoted by the young men and women as they searched for the meaning of life. Sample a few: “Hi, I’m Chandler Bing. I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable.”
“I’m hopeless and awkward and desperate for love” —arguably, this take on his own persona aptly sums up Chandler; it also does the same for many men, women and children around us.
Chandler played a vital role in Friends making generations of viewers nostalgic for it. It was less of a sitcom and more of a well meaning clueless sort of performance that threatened no one.
It was giggly. And it was never toxic.
“Chandler is a guy who is never comfortable in his own skin – he’s got a great excuse to be funny.” said Perry of the sarcastic character he acted in and was identified with. “He’s an exaggerated form of me,” Perry said.
His other friends were Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Monica (Courtney Cox), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow),Ross(David Schwimmer) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc). Together they made watching Friends worthwhile. The gang of six actors have remained tight over the years.
Yet Perry, born in Williamstown, Massachusetts the son of Suzanne Langford, a Canadian journalist and John Bennett Perry, an American actor did not at first seem to be destined for a career on screen. His telling memoir gives a low down on his life and career marked by outstanding highs and heartbreaking lows.
It is an eye opener about Perry. Survived by his parents, he never married and had children.
Perry was a top ranking junior tennis player while studying at Ashbury College. But he switched to acting after travelling to Los Angeles to his father.
He made his mark in sitcoms like Second Chance, Sydney, Home Free before Friends came along. While A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon was Perry’s debut in big screen, he never became the film star he aspired to be despite appearances in Fools Rush In, Three to Tango, The Whole Nine Yards and its sequel The Whole Ten Yards.
But Friends was Perry’s best performance. Initially a commitment-phobe, Chandler uses humour as his defence mechanism and ends up falling in love and marrying Monica Geller (Courtney Cox).
One of Chandler’s lines was: “I am going to die alone.” It feels telling now.
Perry, underscoring his choice for an acting career, had once said in an interview: “You want the attention, you want the bucks, and you want the best seat in the restaurant.” He had it all but not for the time span he would have liked to enjoy them. (IPA